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Regulations on the Use of Water for Hydrocarbons Drafted

May 12, 2021

Department of Water and Sanitation

Draft Regulations designed to protect the water resource so as to avoid and minimise detrimental and cumulative impacts on the water resource by the controlled activity have been drawn up.

The water and sanitation department published the proposed Regulations in Government Gazette 44545 for comment.

The Draft Regulations for the Use of Water for Exploration and Production of Onshore Naturally Occurring Hydrocarbons that Require Stimulation Including Hydraulic Fracturing and Underground Coal Gasification to Extract and any Activity Incidental Thereto that may Impact Detrimentally on the Water Resource were drawn up in terms of the National Water Act.

The draft Regulations focus on applications and licensing; prohibitions; drilling and fluid management; disclosure and offences.

They will apply throughout South Africa to all onshore exploration and production operations for unconventional oil or gas that may impact detrimentally on the water resource.

Proposed prohibited practices include the disposal of drill cuttings containing radioactive substances; deep well injection of process water for disposal without authorization; the drilling of a well so as to enter an area outside the authorised area stipulated in the water use licence; the treatment of process water for disposal, including drilling fluids, at a treatment works that is not suitably engineered or authorised to handle such fluid; the care and maintenance of exploration wells beyond eighteen months after testing, contemplated in regulation 4(4) and abandonment of wells without decommissioning.

The draft Regulations also point out that hazardous substances may not be used in drilling fluids or as additives to fracturing fluid.

Comment is invited within one month of the date of publication.